Team Rainbow are back in yet another first person shooter adventure set as the game’s title suggests in Las Vegas USA. Those terrorists are up to no good once more and it’s down to the counter terrorist group known as Rainbow Six to drop in and sort out the mess by rescuing hostages, disarming bombs and quashing the terrorist threat. Rainbow Six Vegas will be the team’s first and most certainly not the last outing for the guys and girls on Xbox 360. Rainbow Six Vegas has all of the ingredients to make a smashing tactical first person shooter but does it offer much new in terms of gameplay compared to the Xbox versions?
To begin with, players are thrust into a mission in Mexico which acts as an introduction to the leading character Logan Keller and some of the new additions to the gameplay. Previously gamers have come to love and cherish the team leader Ding Chavez in previous titles but this time newcomer Logan is the character players will be controlling throughout. In early rainbow games it was entirely possible to control several team members, yet the developers have continually shifted towards making a more story filled game focusing on the one lead. This time players are accompanied by two operatives, Jung and Michael with Jung being a recon specialist and Michael being a demolitions expert.
Rainbow Six Vegas plays pretty much like previous Rainbow games in that the pacing is fairly slow and players need to take their time to avoid getting shot up in an instant. As always a couple of well placed shots from enemies are enough to take players out and so the introduction of a new health and cover system has been employed to help out in this matter. The cover system is very intuitive in that players can hold the left trigger which will place Logan’s back against any nearby surface if you are positioned close to it. From here players are mostly protected from incoming fire and by holding left or right on the left thumbstick, players can peek out and aim for shooting from within cover, although peeking out will leave you vulnerable to fire. By releasing the thumbstick, players will automatically resume being in cover, giving them the opportunity to weigh up who to shoot first or regain composure after being shot a few times. There are simply loads of places in the game’s levels to perform this manoeuvre and it seems to be a focus of play rather than the old style of simply hiding behind objects and having to peek out fully to see what is ahead. Purists might scoff at the fact that Logan’s view from behind cover is perhaps a little too broad and totally unrealistic but it certainly adds some flavour to the tried and trusted method of previous games. The cover view also switches to a third person viewpoint for obvious cinematic reasons, where gamers are treated to a close up of Logan’s character model where they can see him grimace, bark orders, switch weapons and reload.
The health system is pretty much the same as in the early rainbow games however the addition of a visual cue as to how much damage you are taking has been employed. Take a single shot and your vision will start to blur as an indication of pain I assume. Take a volley of shots and your vision becomes extremely blurry which means that looking at anything becomes virtually impossible. Take too many hits and your screen begins to black out and you cant see anything at all, now is probably a good time to take cover or move as one more hit in this state means death. By taking cover or not get shot anymore, after a few moments your character begins to regain composure and ultimately their vision meaning you are ready to fight once more. I think this feature is implemented very well in this game as it clearly shows that your body armour is doing its job but certainly hurts when you take a bullet. Sadly once you are dead then its missions failed and restart at the last checkpoint, however if your comrades happen to be in similar situations then you are able to revive them or order a team mate to revive them for you. If both of your team are down then it’s a race against the clock to risk your own life to save them whilst making sure that any nearby terrorists have been taken care of first. Take too long and Michael or Jung will perish which means mission failed! It’s can certainly create some rather tense moments and once again is a welcome feature to the series especially as in previous games you could continue on regardless of team mates being incapacitated.
Let’s take a look at some of the other new additions to the game play that R6 Vegas introduces to us. Another of the major new features to the game play is the inclusion of using fast ropes or rappelling down the side of buildings. This not only makes the level design less two dimensional but also adds some extra depth to gaining entry into certain rooms. The fast rope feature is simple enough and at certain points on the map players can attach a cable and jump down with the rest of the team in tow; or if you like you can order them to go first. The rappelling is a little more ambitious and rewarding as it allows you to single handed or as a team drop down the side of building and scope out a room before crashing through the glass. As leader you have complete control over your team mates here and so you can make them hold whilst you check out who is in the room or you can make them perform the entire manoeuvre themselves from the safety of the roof. A move which allows you to turn upside down is available and also allows you as leader to prioritise targets using a marker. With a simple tap on the d-pad the team will burst into action and breech the room killing the occupants. Again all three of you can do this simultaneously or you can let them take the risk and jump in once they have cleared the area. The rappelling feature is extremely satisfying and what makes it all the more dynamic is the fact that if there are more entry points to a room then as suggested you can split up into two groups for maximum coverage.
Another of the new features or should I say reworking of the old method is how the team stacks up for entry through doorways. Before we had Zulu go commands for co-ordinated entry and this time we have a similar set up however the team stacks the door and holds until you issue them the order to open and clear or use breech charges/grenades etc. Using a snake camera as seen in the Splinter Cell games, Logan can check out what is in the room first and prioritise targets once more. By doing so allows him to check multiple doors before deciding the best course of entry for the team. This creates some very tense room clearing moments and certainly feels more professional than in previous games which relied on luck more than anything. The level design also dictates a less linear path on more occasions which is certainly most welcome.
The squad commands return and with rules of engagement and the option to all use silenced weapons means that it is more versatile than before. Whilst you cannot kit out your team as you could in the early Rainbow Six games the team seem to have the required equipment to suit any given situation. Players can switch the team to assault or infiltrate modes and can order them to hold or follow. As always by looking at an area or object, players can order the team to advance which is certainly a very useful feature for taking risks you might not want to take yourself. The team AI is certainly much improved and with no rogue grenades killing the team and them stumbling over each other navigating rooms makes movement swift and compelling. They do a very good job of seeking out targets and taking them down should you not have full awareness of an area and on several occasions will save your hide should you make erroneous tactical manoeuvres.
R6 Vegas features some decent weapons and with the option to carry two primary weapons a pistol and two types of grenades or explosives means that you are well equipped for any give situation. There are a selection of sub-machine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and shotguns to take along with you and of course the selection of fragmentation, incendiary, gas and smoke grenades. What is more, primary weapons and pistols can be customised in that you can opt to equip 6x scopes, laser sights etc to your weapons for added tactical advantage.
The graphics in general are much improved from the likes of Black Arrow and Lockdown on Xbox with some excellent textures and more vibrant levels within the Las Vegas setting. There are some bland textures used amongst the nicer looking ones which do detract from the general level of polish the game displays but on the whole, the level design is far more diverse and colourful for the most part. There is a lot of interactivity and with the option to shoot out many objects makes goofing around or getting into gun battles all the more satisfying. Sadly the lighting isn’t something to be tinkered with but I guess we can all hope that this is something the developers will try and address in future games.
The character models for the team are much improved and look great when using cover or simply looking at them in action. The motion captured animation is of a very high standard and looks totally convincing throughout. There are also some very nice ragdoll death animations which are always good for a laugh here and there. On a negative, some of the character models for the terrorists but especially the hostages look very poor indeed when compared to the rest of the game.
I did notice some minor screen tearing on board the helicopter between missions but in general throughout play there were no issues and certainly no issues with frame rate which is a good thing.
As a long term fan of Rainbow Six games the inclusion of a soundtrack seemed untrue to the series at first but became an element that I enjoyed very much. The purpose of having music highlights the movie like direction the developers took with the game and for the most part is very fitting to the onscreen action. It’s not present all the way through and seems to kick in at just the right moments which I found a great addition (even though I have to bite my lip to say that). Other sound effects and ambient sounds are top notch and as you hear every bullet impact and lots of glass shattering it certainly creates an aural picture that makes for an engaging experience all round. The terrorists are a vocal bunch as are your team mates, which again makes for a more movie like experience. During battle you will hear repeated phrases although the action is so thick and fast I doubt you’ll care that much. I was suitably impressed with the sound and although some of the voice acting is perhaps cliché especially for leading man Logan and the weird Australian/British accent for team mate Michael there’s a lot of speech, which is a good thing for the story purposes of the game.
The single player game has few missions but each one is broken down into sections which makes for a reasonable length game. Its certainly not the longest of games on default settings but with the addition of a realistic mode makes for a longer game for sure. The realistic setting offers more opportunities to die and prolongs gun battles ten fold on occasion. So in total there is certainly a lot to get out of the single player game, couple this with the fact that you and friend can play the story mode co-operatively means that there’s an added bonus. Players are also able to play the game’s terrorist hunt which offers the same maps with the inclusion of randomly placed terrorists. For the lone player this offers a lot of challenge and will no doubt prolong the game. Terrorist Hunt can also be played in split screen and once again is a welcome bonus considering the team could have focused purely on the online portion of the game.
The online portion of the game is present in all its glory with the return of the PEC profiles that players create. Completing matches garners experience points which level up your character giving you access to more weapons and equipment. The customisation is good but not great and certainly makes the online play a more varied experience. Online players can participate in the usual adversarial modes such as Hostage Rescue, sharpshooter and retrieval modes for solo and teams. The inclusion of online co-op for the story and terrorist hunt is also very welcome and makes for a package that has something for everyone. The games I played online ran smoothly although I’ll take a guess that some people will experience lag at some point during their play time.
Rainbow Six Vegas is a welcome addition to the series and whilst in does not include any of the series PC features such as pre-planning, outfitting team mates and of course the huge roster of specialists seen in games such as Raven Shield; it does offer its own spin on the tactical shooter style of Rainbow Six games which works a treat. Atmosphere is great and engaging, gun battles are furious and highly cinematic at times and of course the whole squad element has been tweaked a little to be just that bit more intuitive for console owners. I’ve enjoyed playing the game both on/offline and even in split screen and found that the overall enjoyment the package offers is very high. Is Rainbow Six Vegas a must have? I would certainly say so, as the story whilst secondary to actually getting stuck into killing terrorists does serve its purpose and makes for a compelling experience when you couple it with the all out action the game throws at you throughout. The co-op split screen modes and online play are extras and again make for a complete package offering a game mode for everyone in any situation. Rainbow Six Vegas has been well publicised and whilst TV ads might show off the pre-rendered trailer the game itself does have a certain flair which makes you proud to be involved with a game that certainly delivers on all fronts despite some discrepancies here and there. Rainbow Six Vegas is a solid experience and one to be savoured as we could be waiting a while for another Rainbow game on Xbox 360; and we do know that one is coming if the game’s ending is anything to go by.